Talha Ahsan was arrested in 2006, so he could be extradited to the US to face terrorism related charges.
Since then he has been detained without ever facing trial, while his family fights for justice.
“I visit him with my mum and dad once a week,” Talha’s brother Hamja said. “But if he goes to America we won’t get a chance to see him.”
Hamja said that his brother’s campaign has one simple demand: “a fair UK trial. It is completely reprehensible to detain someone that long without a trial.”
Hamja was pleased with a 150-strong public meeting the campaign organised in central London on Wednesday of last week.
He said, “We have a good cross section of support. We got some bishops. There were autistic rights activists.”
Talha has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism. Gary McKinnon, accused of hacking and fighting extradition under the same law, also has the condition.
The media often hold this up as a reason not to extradite him. The same logic is rarely applied to Talha.
Campaigners lost a judgement in the European Court in April of this year when they tried to challenge deportations.
Hamja said, “It was basically about the human rights of being in solitary for 23 hours a day in a seven foot cell. My brother would be held like this for up to three years pre-trial.”
We spoke at their family house in south London and he recalled the raid in February 2006. “See that computer over there? That’s the one from the case. They came and took it away then brought it back the next day, with the content intact.
“If there was anything incriminating or dangerous why did they return them?
“The police took everything—my diary, my mobile, my CDs. They gave back the computers but they’ve held onto all this stuff. They’ve still got the memory card from my Playstation 2. So they’ve got hours of me playing Grand Theft Auto.
“It’s funny. Talha had read Moazzam Begg’s book where he talked about it being like Franz Kafka’s The Trial.
“So he was reading the Trial when he was arrested.”
Talha writes poetry. Hamja said, “We published a book of Talha’s poetry. The first printing is sold out now and we’re looking to do a reprint.”
Turab Shah has made a 30 minute film Extradition about Talha and Babar Ahmad’s cases.
He said, “I was shocked when I found that there hadn’t been documentaries about Talha or Babar before.
“I wanted to give the family a voice and—through his poetry—give Talha a voice too.
“Although we couldn’t interview Talha he’s really part of the film.”
Hamja told me that the campaign intends to tour around Britain in June showing the film and raising awareness.
He said, “Anyone who is interested in hosting a meeting should get in touch with the campaign.
“Anyone who is angry about what has happened should write to Talha. And there is an early day motion in parliament about the case, so pressurise your MP to support it.”
Back story: Talha Ahsan
- Extradition Act 2003 allows the US to demand extradition of suspects from Britain without requiring evidence.
- Babar Ahmad was arrested in 2004, accused of being a supporter of terrorism and putting materials that could aid terrorists on a website.
- Talha Ahsan was arrested in 2006 on the same charges.
Free Talha Ahsan Campaign, PO Box 64590, London SW17 1DG, www.freetalha.org, 07539 659 532